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Prevention Pays—Lessons from the Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report: five years on
  1. Claire Lemer1,
  2. Dilbinder Dhillon2,
  3. Sally C Davies2
  1. 1 Department of General Paediatrics, Evelina London Children’s Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2 Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Claire Lemer, Department of General Paediatrics, Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH, UK; claire1lemer{at}

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Lessons from the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report: 5 years on

The 2012 Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report, ‘Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays,’ was an honest review of the then state of child public health written by experts. Five years on is an opportunity to reflect on the impact and learn what worked. This is not a full evaluation but rather an opportunity to guide future reports and crucially highlight this important area once again.

Our children deserve better

The report consisted of three sections. First, the main report where experts examined and built the evidence-based case for early intervention in the life course, using the public health approach of proportionate universalism, that is, support where it is most needed. The report made the moral, economic and scientific case for such an approach and highlighted the growing and strong body of evidence that now exists to support this case. Further, the report made crystal clear that England was falling behind compared with other countries and when viewed through the lens of history. The report stressed that in a world in which the major current economic demands on health and social care stem not from acute illness but rather from long-term conditions and the consequences of lifelong behaviours, failing to adapt investment choices and political and policy priorities would burden future generations.

The second section was an updated and expanded Atlas of Variation, analysing and highlighting the variation in health and healthcare across England.

The third and unique element was short briefings to explain the core findings and recommendations of the report to different audiences from families and children and young people to local government. This opened up the report beyond the main audience of policy makers and politicians.

The big picture

Policy reports can have impact in many ways—initially raising awareness; later implementation of the recommendations; finally and much more slowly, impact on real health outcomes. This …

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  • Contributor CL and DD wrote the first draft after discussion with SCD. SCD edited and amended further drafts.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.